Tending Resolutions

By Suzannah G. Ferron, M.A.

My New Year began with butterflies.


Around Thanksgiving, a monarch butterfly fluttered daily around my front door, drinking out of the tiny red blooms of a milkweed that had sprouted from a pot of green onions and new potatoes. Weeks later, the green leaves of the milkweed were bouncing with beautiful bright yellow and black striped caterpillars. So many! I ended up driving 100 miles round trip on New Year’s Eve just to borrow and buy more milkweed for them to eat.

Why bother?

I considered how precious and fragile those monarchs are, and how their numbers are steeply dwindling due to pesticides or mowing down the monarch caterpillars’ only source of food—milkweed.

Our resolutions are a lot like those caterpillars. Precious and fragile. Instead of treating them with care, we too often kill them with toxic and critical self-talk and self-doubt. Instead of making space for them, we cut down what nourishes them with fear or cynicism or lack of commitment. Instead of appreciating this normal cycle of renewal, we nihilistically focus on many the times we’ve tried and failed at the same task—exercising, losing weight or taking a class.

Why bother?

Because it’s how we’re made. As caterpillars are born to eat, cocoon and metamorphose into butterflies, we are born with an inner drive towards happiness, betterment, accomplishment and self-efficacy. The desire for positive change and renewal comes naturally.

If you’re thinking, “The odds are against me,” or “I’ve tried this before,” then you’re poisoning yourself. Just because you’ve quit or not succeeded before, who says that’s what’s guaranteed for your future? Maybe this time you will make that change or take that trip.

Or maybe you’ll give up after all. So what? You never know what you’ll set into motion in the process. Some people quit smoking 30 times before they actually DO. What if they’d stopped at 29?

Like the caterpillars, your precious and fragile goals, dreams, hopes and resolutions need nourishment, the right environment. Ask yourself: What will grow my dreams to fruition? Who and what will help support me? What’s in my way? What steps can I take to increase my chances of success? Should I call a friend? Join a group? Create a realistic plan of action? What can I do right now? In this very moment?

The monarch caterpillars?  The odds really are stacked against them. They could run out of milkweed. They could be eaten by scrub jays, towhees and chickadees—all natural predators of monarch caterpillars. Even with all my care and tending, they might not make it.  

Photo Credit: Chadd Ferron
© Suzannah G. Ferron, 2014

Then again, perhaps they’ll fly away.